A HOAX by Farnborough students and apprentices tricked the government into thinking UFOs had landed, newly released documents reveal.
Six ‘flying saucers’ were found across the south of England on September 4, 1967.
They were spread from Bristol to Kent and their discovery prompted bomb disposal teams to run to retrieve them and government weapons scientists to analyse them.
At least one was examined by ‘Air Ministry boffins’ but an X-ray revealed it was a fake.
The saucers had been made by apprentices at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) and students at Farnborough Technical College, now called Farnborough College of Technology, as a prank during a rag charity week.
In papers released by the National Archives this month, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) called it: “obviously a very successful practical joke”.
One saucer was found in Sheppey in Kent. The saucer was reported to the police who cordoned off the area while a bomb disposal expert was flown in by helicopter from RAF Manston.
Another, the one X-rayed, was found on a golf course in Bromley, Kent, and the discovery of a third near Ascot was reported to a satellite tracking station.
A fourth saucer was found near Newbury, Berkshire by a postwoman doing her rounds.
The saucer was photographed by US Air Force officers based nearby and taken to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston to further examination. Not all the saucers were taken away for analysis – one of them was blown up in a controlled explosion.
This saucer was found in Chippenham, Wiltshire, by a farmer. An army officer picked it up, and took it to a ‘rubbish tip’ where it was “opened with two controlled explosions”.
Another saucer was discovered in Somerset by a paperboy and eventually made its way up the defence industry’s chain of command to be analysed by the chief designer of the guided weapons division at the British Aircraft Corporation.
The National Archive files include letters from 1997 between the MoD and a former intelligence officer, part of the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence, which dealt with UFO sightings at the time.
The man claimed to have examined the Bromley UFO at a police station and wrote to the MoD saying he was planning to take part in a TV documentary about the hoax.
“The hoax was cleverly executed and seems destined to feature in a future television film and so deserves and needs to be accurately recorded. I can help with such an objective,” he wrote.
The hoaxers included Chris Southall and David Harrison.
Christine Slaymaker, the principal of Farnborough College of Technology, said the hoax was “part of the rag week fun”.
She said: “We understand that in 1967 a group of extremely able engineering apprentices decided to put together this hoax.
“I am not sure that almost 44 years on they thought it would still be so newsworthy.
“The interesting aspect to this is the apprentices studying here at the college went on to achieve notable success in their engineering careers, something we hope all our apprentices will aspire to, without a flying saucer in sight.”